Superman: Cover to Cover

My wife and I are having a garage sale this weekend and I’m unloading a few art books. While thumbing through my collection I came across a terrific book for Superman fans: Superman: Cover to Cover

Superman has always been my favorite Superhero. I fell in love with the Christopher Reeve movies as a young boy in the mid-80’s and soon started reading the comics. In sixth grade I saved up enough money for a year’s subscription to Superman (back then I think it cost $9.00). Every time an issue showed up in my mailbox it was an indescribable thrill. I was practically walking—no, running on air all the way home from the Post Office.

Thumbing through Superman: Cover to Cover brought back a lot of memories, and at the same time showcased some astounding artwork. It’s no secret that comic book publishers save their best artwork for the covers. This 240-page hardcover book, printed in full-color, showcases over 270 of the greatest Superman covers of all time. Samples range from the early drawings of Joe Shuster (Superman’s co-creator) all the way to the modern painterly stylings of Alex Ross. It’s not just a hefty dose of nostalgia; it’s also a who’s-who of DC’s greatest artists. Some of my favorites such as John Byrne, Curt Swan, Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, George Perez, Jerry Ordway, Gil Kane, and even Adam Hughes all have samples showcasing some of their best work.

The book has only a limited amount of text. Every few pages features an acclaimed Superman writer, artist, or editor commenting on his/her favorite cover. There are thoughtful mini-essays from industry giants such as Alex Ross, Jerry Ordway, Janette Kahn, Mike Carlin, Marv Wolfman, etc. Even movie directors Richard Donner and Bryan Singer share some brief thoughts.

One of the challenges of crafting stories for Superman is that he is literally the perfect superhero. His powers are virtually unlimited and he has no character flaws. While I find his strength and character refreshing in our cynical age, nevertheless it creates a problem: How do you find worthy challenges for someone so fantastically perfect without getting absurd? Thumbing through the book, it’s fascinating to see how Superman’s creators dealt with the problem through various story lines, some mundane and others outright bizarre. It’s also fun to observe the various twists and turns the Superman mythology has taken over the decades. Superman has at times been ultra-cool, other times ultra-corny. His story lines have ranged from the brilliant to the bizarre. But he was always the model hero every kid could look up to.

But I digress. Superman: Cover to Cover is a perfect item for any Superman fan to add to his collection.

“Disney Adventures” Magazine Shutting Down

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the magazine industry has seen better days. Overall readership is on a slow decline, resulting in lower subscriptions and lost advertising revenues. It looks like C. F. Payne is not the only artist being affected by it. I just learned that Disney Adventures, the snazzy comic-book magazine, is officially no more. The November issue (currently in stores) is the last one to be published by the company.


Here’s the announcement from Ad Age, as quoted by Heidi MacDonald on her blog “The Beat”:

Disney Publishing attributed its decision to an effort to better focus resources and maximize long-term growth potential through new magazine and book initiatives.
The demise of Disney Adventures, which was introduced for tweens in 1990, closely follows the end of fellow child soldier Nick Jr., which MTV Networks closed with the April issue. It isn’t clear that there’s any particular exodus of children from magazines, but proliferating competition and rising costs are knocking out big magazines at a fairly regular clip these days; adults for their part have lost Premiere, Jane, Life and Child so far this year.

This is disappointing news. Disney Adventures has been a fun comic-book magazine consistently loaded with quality artwork. It’s one of the few magazines at the checkout stand I would actually pick up and thumb through. Occassionally I’ve even bought a copy just so I could drool over the artwork and keep up on the latest “trendy” art styles for kids. Recently I’ve even thought about putting together a submission package to send them in hopes of landing some work. Looks like that will never be. (Ya snooze, ya lose.)

Fellow fans can still enjoy some of the Adventures content. According to Wikipedia, Disney Press recently released theme-based collected volumes of various Disney Adventures comics (96 pages each):

Comic Zone Vol. 1: Lilo & Stitch
Comic Zone Vol 2: Gorilla, Gorilla
Comic Zone Vol. 3: Disney’s Tall Tails
Comic Zone Vol. 4: Kid Gravity

Magazines have traditionally been a solid and consistent place for illustrators to find work (although they don’t pay what they used to). Someday in the future I’d like to write a blog post about the effect of the decline of print media on illustrators.

Thanks to Tom Bancroft for the heads-up. Also, check out Tom’s blog which he runs with fellow artist Rob Corely. It’s nifty!